How to understand what customers are saying when they’re...

How to understand what customers are saying when they’re not saying it

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Customer transactions and sales trends are more closely monitored than before, making Business Intelligence (BI) tools critical for helping dealers access customer data and for giving parts personnel clear insights in order to make proactive, informed decisions.

There’s a common story about a parts department and a parts manager who routinely sold a shop customer parts over the course of years or even decades. But like many business relationships a lot can – and, in fact, always will – change in just a few years. As the story goes, this wholesale dealership, like many dealerships, relied on its usual shop customers to submit and buy parts with regularity. In turn, the dealership processed and filled the orders without much thought, remaining comfortable in its belief that it was meeting its customers’ needs as its parts vendor.

Until one day, this dealership’s parts manager noticed that its once-reliable shop customer stopped ordering parts from the dealership. A little hurt, the parts manager called the shop to discuss the drop in transactions.

“Why’d you stop ordering from me?” the parts manager asked. “Why didn’t you tell me?” “I did tell you,” the shop owner said. “I’ve been telling you for years.”

When the parts manager returned to his books, spreadsheets, purchase orders, carbon-copied invoices, and so on, he noticed that in recent years the shop owner started scaling back his order volume, little by little, until he stopped ordering from that dealership entirely.

Trends and customer buying patterns, like the one above, are not unique to the automotive parts industry. Market forces disrupt sales trends. A business’ bottom line pushes customer loyalty to its limits. Costs can run – and ruin – the day for a business or even threaten its very existence.

While the problem may not be specific to the automotive aftersales business, there are solutions designed specifically to address industry-specific performance and sales issues. BI solutions are proven to be extremely beneficial in increasing dealership wholesale performance by providing insights into a dealership’s parts sales business and customer trends.

Understand the message behind customer data

If the parts manager in the story above adopted a business intelligence tool, like PSXLink, then he would have been able to access in-depth insights into sales trends, dealership performance, and customer behaviors. He probably would have known that the customer he thought was loyal and steady was incrementally reducing his parts spend at the dealership, tipping the manager off to the issue.

When the customer told this parts manager that he had been telling him that he was upset or shopping around – for years, perhaps – he wasn’t lying; he was just speaking with his wallet and actions rather than outright voicing his displeasure.

But getting back to the core problem – not getting the message the customer was sending – it’s important to know why this happened. There’s no doubt that the parts department knew this customer pretty well and probably had completed hundreds, if not thousands, of transactions with the shop. However, if all this data (customer information) is not presented in an accessible way, then it remains an unopened book or untold story that the dealer isn’t able to access.

Business Intelligence tools, such as PSXLink, allow parts departments to get the message that those customers are sending. By unlocking this data and presenting information in an easy-to-process way through interactive dashboards, the parts department can identify when buyer behavior changes – either abruptly or, in the case above, incrementally.

Strengthen your customer relationship

It’s easy to think of these tools as numbers and spreadsheets and long arrows that go up and to the right (great) or trend down (time to act). But what’s at the core of Business Intelligence tools (beyond the ability to easily track customer behaviors and department performance) is the ability to foster existing relationships or cultivate new ones. This level of analysis provides the hard data and objective information that is necessary to have real, productive conversations with customers.

Let’s say, for example, the parts manager was able to see these trends with his shop customer and think, “Woah, he’s spending less and less each month,” and then pick up the phone, swing by the shop, or chat him up on the back nine. It’s about having the necessary information to start the conversation – and sometimes the information required is in the details that are, without the right tools, inaccessible to the parts team.

Identify strategies & growth opportunities

It’s important to note that the customer insights dealers get through BI platforms are not just huge red flags or five-alarm fires. Customer data provides insights into the entirety of the dealership’s parts sales business and helps teams identify opportunities and growth strategies, meaning BI tools do much more than serve as preventative solutions to guard against churn or call attention to dissatisfied customers.

When the parts team is equipped with the tools to monitor all sales activity, it’s also able to track which customers or markets present the biggest growth opportunities. As parts departments can attest to, a pile of unorganized, likely crumpled invoices or a bottomless spreadsheet may not be the best sources for telling the parts team that one customer has increased its transaction volume in, say, four of the last five months.

With the level of insight and in-depth reporting that Business Intelligence tools provide parts wholesalers, the messages customers “send” through their actions are clear and easy to identify. This allows parts personnel to pinpoint sales opportunities, make informed decisions, track sales activity, view follow-up progress, utilize customer relationship management tools, and develop growth strategies. Plus, all of the data that becomes available – once organized and clearly presented – allows parts teams to navigate wholesale growth and act with greater certainty, stronger insights, and better customer awareness.

Take control of your parts business

Missing opportunities or losing customers is never good for any business, but in times of heightened economic stress and cost-reducing activities, these two things can be devastating and the collective impact on your parts department can pile up. When you have enhanced access to customer data, you can see what those customer behaviors and trends are telling you. BI tools, like PSXLink, are designed for wholesale parts and provide your parts team with the necessary insights to accelerate sales growth. Customers are always conveying a message to your parts department – even when they’re not “saying it” out loud – and now, more than ever, you need to make sure you’re receiving the message loud and clear.

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